Prosperity, like justice, liberates creativity. It gives hope and incentive. Men can raise their families decently and plan for the future. Prosperity with justice creates harmony between nations and removes the causes of war.
Sargent Shriver | November 1, 1972

Our Quote of the Week links economic prosperity and justice, making the case that we require both in order to build sustained peace. As we mark Thanksgiving in the United States next week, let us reflect on how we can bring about the changes necessary for a more prosperous, just society for all of us.

Running as the Vice Presidential candidate on the George McGovern ticket in 1972, Sargent Shriver devoted this speech to the subject of prosperity at the end of his campaign. He focused on the imbalances in domestic and foreign policies that were robbing the US, and all countries, of a prosperous society. He pledged that a McGovern/Shriver administration would tackle the imbalances and hostilities between the US and other countries, particularly related to the out-of-control war in Vietnam, to bring about stability.

In the speech, Sargent Shriver states:

“There are in reality two worlds today: One -- rich, industrial, urban, literate, and consumption-oriented. The other -- poor, agrarian, rural, malnourished, largely illiterate, and survival-oriented. The gap between these two worlds should be closing; unfortunately, it is increasing.”

One might argue that these “two worlds” continue to exist within the borders of the US itself, and that the “poor, malnourished, largely illiterate, and survival-oriented” world is not confined to rural areas of the country. The latest Pew research shows us that income inequality has been on the rise since 1980, and that it is greater in the US than in other countries with well-developed economies.

The justice system, in the meantime, has arguably become even less just than it was when Sargent Shriver spoke these words in 1972. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, President Richard Nixon’s “tough on crime” policies from the era of this speech caused a sharp increase in the prison population throughout the 1970s. Then, by the time Ronald Reagan took office in 1980, the US prison population was 329,000, and by the time he left office eight years later, that number had almost doubled to to 627,000. The upward trend continued throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, and saw its peak in 2009. Although the number of people incarcerated has declined more recently, particularly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the United States continues to incarcerate people at an alarming rate of 565 per 100,000 residents, more individuals per capita than any other country in the world.

As the holiday season unfolds, let us remember the millions of individuals who are living in deprivation and unsafe conditions, who cannot begin to imagine being in a safe, prosperous environment. And let us commit to supporting policies and actions that tackle the inequalities that make society less prosperous and less stable for all of us. As Sargent Shriver observed:

“The consequences of this neglect are grave. A world in which no progress is being made toward eliminating the vast inequalities between nations cannot be a secure or peaceful world. The harvest of inaction is political instability, militance, civil war, anarchy and aggression. Addressing ourselves to this problem, therefore, is not only the pursuit of social justice, but a matter of our deepest self-interest and self-respect.”

Wherever you are, however you celebrate, may you enjoy a peaceful holiday season.

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Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.
Sargent Shriver
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